Judge upholds ordinance on greyhound injuries

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Ruling against greyhound breeders and owners, a Seminole County judge has upheld a county ordinance forcing trainers at the Sanford Orlando Kennel Club to report dog injuries.

Breeders and owners challenged the ordinance, adopted two years ago, to try to prevent similar regulations elsewhere in the state.

The legal battle came after Florida lawmakers refused to adopt statewide regulations to require injury reports, an issue long pushed by Massachusetts-based Grey2K USA Worldwide and other animal-rights groups.

The Seminole County effort was spearheaded by the Committee to Protect Greyhounds, which presented local officials with more than 14,000 petitions in support of an ordinance to force greyhound trainers at the kennel club to report injuries.

The ordinance, which went into effect last year, also requires trainers to provide information about what happens to dogs after they stop racing at the track and mandates that the dogs be licensed by the county. County officials must also inspect the dogs' kennels.

The lawsuit, filed by greyhound owners Scott Bennett and Jimmy Goodman, alleged, among other things, that the Seminole ordinance violates a statewide prohibition on local governments regulating the pari-mutuel industry. But nothing in state law “declares expressly that counties are preempted from regulating the welfare of greyhound dogs,” Circuit Judge Michael Rudisill wrote in Thursday’s order upholding the ordinance.

State gambling laws related to greyhound racing are “limited to regulation of pari-mutuel gambling, not animal welfare,” Rudisill wrote.

Christine Dorchak, general counsel for Grey2K USA, applauded the judge “for agreeing that greyhounds deserve to be protected just like all other dogs.”

Jack Cory, a lobbyist who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and owners, said his group is reviewing the court decision.

“We might have lost the first inning,” Cory said, indicating the group is likely to appeal. “Obviously, the judge ruled for the hometown. The appellate court doesn’t have to stand for election in Seminole County.”

The greyhound-racing industry also faces a major challenge in November, when Florida voters will decide on a proposed constitutional amendment that would outlaw dog racing at pari-mutuel facilities.

Like all constitutional amendments, 60 percent of voters must approve the proposal for it to pass.